Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Reboot and Get All Political

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I hope you’ve been well since the last time we chatted. Unless you are one of those folks who chatter with me on Facebook that means it’s been almost a month.

weekendcoffeeshare

And I’d tell you I’ve been doing some thinking — soul searching really — about what it’s going to take to get my blogging life back on track. My output isn’t where I’d like it to be. I doubt I’ll ever get it back to where it was in 2014 and ’15, but I’d like to be publishing a post per week somewhere. I don’t see why I can’t find a way to swing that.

My problem lately has been figuring out what to blog about. Coffee posts are definitely still on my agenda, but they can be about literally anything as long as they’re structured correctly. I feel as though my pop culture blogging has pretty much run its course for now. That was always about collaboration with other bloggers — my pop culture posts were consistently less popular than other contributors’ for the entire life of my collaborative blogging project, and in any case, I don’t have the time to write high-quality reviews nor to consume the amount of entertainment required to be a pop culture blogger.

The only other thing I’m absolutely committed to keeping up at this point is my feminism project, and I’m really wanting to do some other politically-oriented blogging as well. During 2014, when Diana and I were more or less throwing as many different types of posts against the wall and seeing what stuck, I wrote quite a few political posts at our blogs. Those posts didn’t do poorly, but as our contributor base grew and I moved into pop culture, I stopped with the political chatter. Here’s why I made that decision.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

  • The audience I saw developing, such as it was, was an audience of creative types and pop culture geeks with highly diverse views. I felt as though my political writing — which is always strongly opinionated — had the potential to create unnecessary divisions among contributors and alienate readers who were just looking for cool photos and smart t.v. reviews.
  • The socio-political commentary market is thoroughly saturated, and political blogging is a competitive game. Since I didn’t have a foundation of readers who were interested in reading what I have to say about politics, I thought I’d probably just ending up screaming into space.
  • My original audience included many, many conservative southerners. Since I was trying to start up a pop culture blog and a writing blog and I was only generating 20 to 50 views per day, I didn’t think it was wise to continually antagonize 30 to 50 percent of my audience.
  • In short, I didn’t see enough benefit to warrant the effort, because I don’t blog for solely for emotional gratification. I blog because I want to be read.

My social media life has changed drastically since I started. The southern conservatives I depended on during the first few months of my blogging startup have mostly moved on, or have at least learned that when I start spouting off as an opinionated liberal in my own media space, discretion is the better part of valor. Many of the bloggers I met during the past two years who have an affinity for my political opinions are now Facebook friends. Sourcerer’s silent, but a lot of the people who contributed to that blog and kept the threads busy are still in contact and are contributing for one another now.

So the community-building part of the Sourcerer project was a success, even though I’m not able to get that blog running again right now. All of which leaves me in the position most bloggers find themselves in at some point in their careers. My output has dwindled and if I’m gonna ever get going again, I’ve got to start as a solo blogger and get to the point where I’m producing enough content to keep my own blog busy and give posts away from time to time.

This is me.

This is me.

And the only way I’ve ever been able to be consistent as a solo blogger is to write about things I care about and that I find not-terribly-taxing to write. Until I set up Sourcerer in 2013, all the blogging I’d ever done had been political blogging. I learned almost everything I know about how information spreads on the internet from studying the development of the early blogosphere in the first decade of this century. And I’m also good at turning personal experiences into entertaining stories.

So, for the next little while — until I find something that works bettter — what you’re getting from me on the blog is a combination of personal experiences and political opinions. Even during the months when I was mostly keeping politics off my social media, I never disengaged completely and I never stopped keeping up. One of the reasons I don’t have time to consume the quantity of entertainment media required to do pop culture blogging is that I consume a TON of information about domestic politics, international affairs, and social trends. So the only way I can realistically get back to blogging frequently is to leverage that information and hope to find readers who appreciate it.

So, just to get this reboot rolling, here are a couple of things I have on my radar at the moment.

The U.S. Presidential election, especially Donald Trump’s candidacy.

My Facebook feed is awash with Trump chatter. The smart money says it’s demographically impossible for him to win the general election, but his candidacy has unsettled me practically from the moment he announced. Just the other night I had a long and somewhat heated exchange with a person who claimed that Trump is a victim of a big media smear campaign, and who was also characterizing one of the Dem candidates as a “shameless felon,” despite the fact that the candidate in question has never been convicted — nor even indicted — for a felony.fblike

Now, of course election season in the U.S. always causes some people to say bizarro things. But I don’t see it that way. I think if anyone’s trying to smear Trump, it’s the GOP establishment, and they’re doing a terrible job of it. What I see the professional media doing is uncritically pumping Trump into the homes of potential voters 24/7 to sell ads and generate internet traffic. And I will never stand by and let another person jump into the middle of a conversation I’m having and call a public figure a felon just because they dislike that person. I’d call that out even if I saw someone whose politics I agree with characterizing a hard-right Republican that way.

I know anecdotes don’t count for much, but I find this trend in the U.S. political discourse disconcerting. And while I HOPE the people who say demographics preclude a Trump Presidency are correct, this poll worries me. Tl; dr:

What I found is a trend that has been widely overlooked. A voter’s gender, education, age, ideology, party identification, income, and race simply had no statistical bearing on whether someone supported Trump. Neither, despite predictions to the contrary, did evangelicalism.

Authoritarianism and a hybrid variable that links authoritarianism with a personal fear of terrorism were the only two variables that predicted, with statistical significance, support for Trump.

Now, to be clear. I don’t think the U.S. is about to slide into outright dictatorship on the fascist model. But if you think of “authoritarianism” as a set of attitudes which includes things like conformity, resistance to changes in traditional social norms, and fear of outsiders, maybe you can see the problem. There’s a deep and persistent strain of that type of authoritarian thought which runs through American political history all the way back to colonial times.

The sample size for the poll is small, but the fact that age and race weren’t statistically significant predictors of support for Trump worries the hell out of me. So does the general tone and attitude of the crowds from the Trump rallies that I’ve seen footage of.

Mississippi has Declared April Confederate Heritage Month

This one’s closer to home, and I may have more to say about it later. But I don’t like this. And I especially don’t like the potential for it to turn into a month-long aggrandizement of the Confederate government and military with no serious acknowledgement that the Civil War was fought to preserve chattel slavery as a legal institution.

The State of Mississippi made this clear in its Declaration of Secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

mlk_justiceI think any discussion of the Civil War as an exercise in remembrance needs to start by acknowledging that it was about slavery in the first instance. “States’ rights” is an abstract concept and it is a justification, or a best an explanation of the underlying philosophical differences between the factions of elites who drove the country to war. It is not a causus belli in and of itself.

That’s all I’m saying about it for now. I’m still deciding how to handle this one, and what I’ve said today may very well be my last word on it. Then again, I may use the A to Z Challenge to talk about my heritage in a real, honest way every day during April.

I’m over 1600 words, so I’ll thank you for reading and wish you a fine week. I hope to see you again next weekend, if not before.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. (The total views only covers the blog since August when I moved here from My Former Blog, so about 4,900 short. Post counts and comments seem to be accurate.)

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Networking Note: Twitter’s good for now. Time to fix the Facebook. With Wankery.

Some bullet points for those of you who are following my effort to build a chatty, thriving network of bloggers who read things bloggers contribute on mine and Diana‘s blogs. And our posts too, of course.

Image via Suzie81's Blog, 2014.

Image via Suzie81’s Blog, 2014.

  • I’m satisfied with the progress of the @Sourcererblog Twitter account and with the number of bloggers who are following it. I think its following is stable above 5K, but we will see.
  • I’m not managing that account for growth as a way of keeping score. I need its following to be as big as I can easily manage. Given the time and tools I have to work with, and what it’s taking to manage now, I think that number is 10K.
  • I am not eager to do more rapid growth and try for 10K at the moment. It’s time to let it settle and see what kind of growth I can get just by Tweeting for at least a month, and to reorganize my lists so I can give my attention over there to people who Tweet with me.
  • I don’t plan to do much unfollowing for a least a month. In general, I assume that if I don’t get a followback in 10 days, the other person isn’t interested in tweeting with me or isn’t looking at new followers. But I am giving all the bloggers I’ve followed in the last week a lot of latitude, and I don’t really need to unfollow until I’m ready for more growth.

I’m where I want to be on Twitter for now. I am not at all happy with my Facebook at the moment, but I’ve improved it greatly over the last month or so. I’ve thought a lot over the past couple of months about what to do next once I reached my Twitter milestone for the year. I’ve considered working on improving the reach of a fanpage, figuring out Tumblr, or getting interactive on Google+ again. But really, I think, what I need is to be Facebook friends with more bloggers. That takes time, but I am working on it. I’m not ready to start adding many friends yet because I need to make sure I have my privacy settings airtight before I do that and I just adjusted them a day or two ago.

Here is why I made this decision. Our traffic numbers are miniscule, but they are still numbers. When I look at where our referrals came from in the last year, Facebook is near the top for both Sourcerer and Part Time Monster. Neither of those other two networks are. Twitter is also high on the list. Once I get that following to 10K, probably in February, I think it will outperform Facebook until I find a way to fix that. And I don’t know how to grow a Facebook page without paying for follows. Working on my personal network there makes more sense.

I have another post coming about Facebook at some point, but I’m not satisfied with the draft, so it’ll have to wait awhile. Now here’s a little Twitterwankery on how I’ve done the growth. (Shamelessy ripping off your Blogwanking thing here, Luther, but only so I can mention that you write science fiction books, and you’ve even set up a way for people to pay for them 😉 )

Twitter Dec 2

This follower graphic is from my Twitter analytics. The screenshot is taken today and it captures May through yesterday. You are looking at two consciously-managed growth cycles here. The little steps from the second week of May through the first of July are me growing the account from 1200 to around 2500 by following accounts right up to the limit every weekend and then using apps to unfollow my unfollowers after 10 days. That was difficult and time-consuming, but much less so than getting to 1200 was.

The flat part of the graph is where I stopped, partly because I wanted the following to settle and see what I really had. Partly because I just had other things to do, and didn’t know whether it was worth it to do more growth at that point. I added about 300 new followers during that time just by Tweeting regularly and following the good accounts back.

In late September I decided to go for 5K to see what managing it was like. I started growing again in October. The bottom of the spike at the end is October 2. I had a little under 2800 followers at that point, and the capacity to follow hundreds of accounts. So I did. The top is 5,043 as of yesterday. I have a few more than that at the moment. Now I’m convinced that eventually getting to 10K so I can use that account to tweet links for friends and contributors is worth the effort, and I think I have set myself up to get that done by April.

2200 followers in two months is not professionally impressive Twitter growth, but it is better than I thought I’d ever do, and there is no question in my mind that I can easily double my following pretty much any time I am willing to manage the growth. A ton of other people helped me get it done. Too many to list. I haven’t spent a single dime on promotion, and I can explain how I did this to practically anyone who is interested.

Happy blogging!